Iran confident about Cup date with the ROK

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Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi has vowed to overcome Republic of Korea (ROK) and his own emotions on Saturday in a date with destiny that pits the two giants in an Asian Cup quarterfinal for the fifth straight time.

"It's my job to win with Iran against whoever we have to face," he said after Team Melli outpowered the United Arab Emirates 3-0 to finish as the only team with three straight group wins.

The match is a twist of fate for the 46-year-old who grew up in the United States and built his career in ROK, starting as a match analyst for Dutchman Guus Hiddink when he guided them to the 2002 World Cup semifinals.

Ghotbi said he would have prefered to meet the ROK in the final to end three-time champion Iran's 35-year title drought.

"The Korean players know my feelings towards them and the Korean people know I feel about them," he said.

"We're seeing many, many times when a coach like myself has to coach a team that they worked with. But my feeling is simple that Iran must win.

"No matter whom we play against and whatever selection we use, we play with organization and the Iranian players have enough quality individually within the organization to reach our goals."

Ghotbi, who also served as an assistant coach for the Taeguk Warriors under other Dutchmen Dick Advocaat and Pim Verbeek until 2007, claimed he had a "very, very deep understanding and knowledge of the Korean way of playing" and their "psychological side".

"I think this gives me a small edge and we'll try to capitalize on that edge to win."

Against the UAE, Ghotbi tested several reserves with his side having already secured a last-eight berth after beating old foe and holder, Iraq and World Cup finalist Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

They waited until the 70th minute to open their account when Arash Afshin struck. Mohammad Nori doubled their lead on 83 minutes and UAE defender Walid Abbas made matters worse by netting an own goal in stoppage time.

The ROK has a "great coach and one of the best captains you can possibly have", Ghotbi said, referring to Manchester United star Park Ji-sung.

"So it's going to be a very difficult match for any team.

"The two teams have met so many times and have great rivalry and respect between the two nations."

Iran and the ROK have clashed at the Asian Cup in four straight editions since 1996 - all in the quarterfinals - in what ROK media called a "fatal tie".

They won two matches and lost two against each other, including the 2007 battle which ended with the ROK outshooting Iran 4-2 on penalties after a scoreless deadlock.

"An Asian Cup without this match is not an Asian Cup," said Ghotbi, in charge since early 2009 when he failed to guide them to the 2010 World Cup.

"I am expecting a wonderful match and I hope the world, too, is in for one of the most exciting matches in Asian football."

And his sights are firmly set on the ultimate prize.

"I believe that we can hold this trophy over our heads on January 29," he said of the Asian Cup final day, adding the goal has been repeated "from day one" despite media skepticism.

"But maybe on January 29th you'll believe in this very, very deep feeling that I have."

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